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JUNE 29, 1969

Cops raid the Stonewall Inn

Lavender & red, part 63

Published May 25, 2006 11:25 PM

After midnight on June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Undercover cops, male and female, were already inside. At 1:20 a.m., Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine led an assault group of four cops from the First Division “morals squad” in three-piece suits and ties, two patrol cops and detective Charles Smythe. The patrol cop with the radiotelephone remained outside the bar, as the rest of the cops entered the club shouting: “Police! We’re taking the place!”

Ironically, the cops would soon find themselves holed up in the bar, barricaded against an enraged crowd.

While details of the rebellion that broke out later that night outside the bar are familiar to many, historian David Carter offers the following detailed accounts from bar patrons about the struggle that began to build up inside the bar that night during the raid in his book “Stonewall: The riots that sparked the gay revolution” (St. Martin’s Press).

The Stonewall Inn attracted a mixed crowd, described by bar-goer Philip Eagles: “There were some lesbians, hustlers, married people, single people, some transvestites, but not too many. It was the heart and soul of the Village because it had every kind of person there.” The bar drew some people of color, as well as whites.

That time of night, a peak Saturday night crowd of some 200 filled the club. David Carter noted, “Almost immediately after entering the Stonewall Inn, the police encountered resistance.”

The cops ordered grouped people in different rooms, then lined them up, demanding to see their identification papers, then letting some go.

Philip Eagles said he witnessed some customers “giving the cops lip,” shouting, “I’m not showing you my ID,” and, “We’re not taking this.” Eagles said he and some others also balked at producing ID, and finally did so only with “a lot of attitude.” Another customer refused the police order to leave the club.

Those who had extra forms of identifica tion without photographs reportedly shared them with those who did not have ID.

Carter added, “Whatever grumbling there may have been from the gay men, the police soon ran into more significant resistance from other patrons in each of the two rooms.”

Transgender and transsexual patrons who were considered “cross-dressed” were grouped near the bathroom, where female cops threatened to do strip searches to determine their birth sex.

According to Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, “We had a couple of the transvestites who gave us a lot of flak.” Pine said: “We separated the few transvestites that we had, and they were very noisy that night. Usually they would just sit there and not say a word, but now they’re acting up: ‘Get your hands off me!’ ‘Don’t touch me!’ They wouldn’t go in, so it was a question of pushing them in, fighting them.”

Philip Eagles also described that some lesbians in the front room confronted police, arguing, “We have a right to be here” and, “What are you doing?”

Eagles recalled that cops were “feeling some of them up inappropriately or frisking them.” He said the lesbians “were being pushed around and bullied” and this, combined with the cops body-searching the women, made “everybody generally very uncomfortable.”

Patrol cars from the Sixth Precinct pulled up and parked in front of the Stonewall Inn as backup for the raid.

Inside the Stonewall, those held by police were angry and restive.

Raymond “Ray” Castro, a 27-year-old Puerto Rican bakery worker, recalled that the cops “kept us there for so long, it was almost like a hostage situation.”

Next: Temperature rises.

Email: lfeinberg@workers.org